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Owens warns sequestration could linger for months

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CANTON - Automatic federal spending cuts scheduled to go into effect today under measures dubbed the federal sequester are likely to stick around at least until March 27, according to Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

“There is no significant conversation at this juncture as to how to deal with this issue,” Mr. Owens said in a phone conference with reporters Thursday.

March 27 is the deadline for Congress to act on a budget extension to keep the federal government operating despite the lack of a formal budget since 2009.

“I couldn’t rationally sit here and say that anything will happen before the 27th,” Mr. Owens said.

Mr. Owens said sequestration, which will reduce federal spending by roughly $85 billion in 2013, will “touch everyone to a greater or lesser degree.”

“This will take something in the way of 30 to 60 days to play out as agencies decide whether or not to provide furlough notices and when they will do that,” Mr. Owens said.

That will also be the time frame when citizens affected by service reductions notice the pinch and get in touch with their federal representatives.

“I think it’s going to take [public] pressure to move this along,” Mr. Owens said.

“In my view there are a lot of people in Congress who do not believe the impact will be as great as the president says,” Mr. Owens said. “If it is they will be pressured into acting.”

But Mr. Owens cautioned that the March 27 deadline for the continuing resolution will not necessarily stop sequestration.

“The continuing resolution could in fact say that we’re going to continue funding at the sequestration levels,” Mr. Owens said. “With my history here for three years, I’d say it’s going to be toward the end of the string [before there is a deal on sequestration].”

Mr. Owens warned that cuts to Fort Drum, prisons, border enforcement, hospitals and schools could have a serious impact on the local economy.

“If you take Fort Drum, they are looking at a furlough of 20 percent. It will also roll out into the local economy,” he said.

According to figures from the White House, New York state stands to lose $42.7 million in federal primary and secondary education funding, $36.3 million in funding for children with disabilities and $12.8 million for clean air and water protection. The state will also lose roughly $60.9 million in pay for civilian Department of Defense employees, and Army base funding will be cut by $108 million. New York will further lose $780,000 in justice assistance grants for crime prevention and public safety.

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